China agrees not to take inmates’ organs
Friday, October 5, 2007
Chinese medical officials agreed Friday not to transplant organs from prisoners or others in custody, except into members of their immediate families.
The agreement was reached at a meeting of the World Medical Association in Copenhagen.
China has previously acknowledged that kidneys, livers, corneas and other organs are routinely removed from prisoners sentenced to death row. But officials insist that this only happens when consent is provided.
Critics argue that death-row prisoners are not truly free to consent and may feel compelled to become donors, violating personal, religious or cultural beliefs.
The announcement Friday comes after several years of discussions between the World Medical Association and the Chinese Medical Association.
Last year, the WMA adopted a resolution stressing the importance of free and informed choice in organ donation, stating that prisoners and other individuals in custody were not in a position to provide consent. They demanded that the Chinese Medical Association condemn any violation of these ethical principles and ensure that Chinese doctors were not involved in the removal or transplantation of organs from executed prisoners.
Earlier this year, a delegation from the international body traveled to Beijing for talks on the issue.
“We shall now continue our dialogue with the Chinese Medical Association and include other national medical associations in a project to find best practice models for ethically acceptable organ procurement programs,” said Dr. Edward Hill, WMA’s chairman.
In a letter to the WMA, the Chinese Medical Association said it would work to strengthen the management of organ transplantation and prevent possible violations of the Chinese government’s regulations.
The underground organ trade in China has been a notorious supplier of organs to foreigners desperately in need of transplants, who make up as much as 40 percent of the market. Brokers regularly arrange transplants in weeks rather than the months or years it generally takes in the West.
Health officials say the country faces a severe organ shortage, estimating that 1.5 million people need transplants in China each year, and that only about 10,000 operations are carried out.